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Hungary’s former finance ministers call for continued reforms

Hungary’s former finance ministers attending a conference in Budapest on Thursday agreed that reforms were needed but three said efforts must be focused at one area at a time , according to MTI News Agency.

Only Tibor Draskovics, who was finance minister between 2004 and 2005 and is currently Public Administration Minister, said the reform of health care, higher education and public administration should be carried out at the same time. In the current state of public finances, it is not enough to reform just one or two areas, he added at the conference organized for the 50th anniversary of the Hungarian weekly Figyelő.

It is essential for Hungary to continue ongoing reforms in order to close the gap with more developed European Union members, former finance minister Lajos Bokros said. Bokros said reforms were necessary because fiscal stabilization measures were not sufficient anymore to secure economic growth. He welcomed measures already introduced as part of the reform of health care, such as the liberalization of the drugs market, cutting drugs subsidies, the introduction of fees for visits to the doctor and hospital and an increased burden of responsibility on doctors when subscribing medicines. The reform of health care has come to a turning point and the health insurance market now also needs to be reformed, Bokros said. Competition between insurers will enable improved services and better access to them, he added.

Mihály Varga of the main opposition Fidesz party, who was finance minister between 2001 and 2002, said reforms must be more focused and what currently happens in Hungary is only an attempt of stabilization. More emphasis should be placed on improving competitiveness, he added.

István Hetényi, who was finance minister between 1980 and 1986, said the health care reform must be completed before other reforms. He added that people at present do not seem to have a good enough understanding of why measures are introduced and therefore the government should agree with the media to communicate this better.

Mihály Kupa, finance minister between 1990 and 1993, during Hungary’s first post-communist government, said that education is the area where a comprehensive reform was most in need. For the health care system, he proposed following the model introduced in Austria, which he said was working very successfully. Kupa said when the government wants to reform every area, in practice it will not be able to reform any area thoroughly enough. (